TOPEKA — A new federal report says rural areas across the country are losing population at an unprecedented rate as both people and industries are concentrating in urban areas.
"Rural America at a Glance" is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual report on employment, population and poverty trends in rural counties. The latest edition was released last week, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
While Great Plains and Corn Belt states like Kansas have seen a decline in rural population for decades, what's new is the decline's extension in to the eastern U.S., said John Cromartie, a geographer with the department's Economic Research Service.
Cromartie said one of the biggest contributing factors to the trend is a slowing rate of suburbanization on the edges of metro areas.
"In the past you would see rapid growth in areas around the edges of cities like Atlanta or Nashville, Columbus or Indianapolis," he said. "And that's just not happening right now."
Another factor has been the out-migration of young adults and declining birth rates among young adults who remain in rural areas, according to Cromartie. He also said there's been a rising mortality rate among working-age adults in rural counties.
The report didn't include data specific to counties or states. But it showed that population declines have become widespread throughout rural America since around 2010. The number of "nonmetro" counties losing population reached more than 1,300 between 2010 and 2016, with a combined population loss of just under 790,000.